- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Apr 1964, p. 328-338
- Laurendeau, Andre and Dunton, Davidson, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Andre Laurendeau:
Summing up the subject of the inquiry at recent regional meetings of the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism by asking the following questions: "These two peoples, the English-speaking and the French-speaking, can they continue to live together? Do they want to? And under what new conditions? Summing up the impressions and facts that struck the speakers during their first trips to the ten Canadian provinces from mid-January to mid-March. A review of the issue and the questions asked. Complicating factors. Clarifying the elements of the crisis and making recommendations about what might be a new "modus vivendi." What others think and therefore an illustration of the major difficulty: disparity from one end of Canada to the other.
The major differences of this Royal Commission. The speakers' understanding of the mandate of the Commission. Defining the words "bilingualism," "biculturalism" and "equal partnership." Canadians of origins other than British or French. Going about the work of the Commission in some new ways. The research aspect of the Commission's work. The need for an enormous national effort of objective examination and understanding.
- Date of Original
- 9 Apr 1964
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- Full Text
- APRIL 9, 1964
The Work of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
AN ADDRESS BY Andre Laurendeau and Davidson Dunton CO-CHAIRMEN OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON BILINGUALISM AND BICULTURALISM
CHAIRMAN, The President, Mr. Arthur J. Langley
Distinguished Guests and Ladies and Members Of the Empire Club of Canada. The LaurendeauDunton/Dunton-Laurendeau Commission is notable not only for its composition, or the unique challenges which have been given it, or the significance to Canada of its area Of study, but also because of the remarkable unity in the duality of its chairmen. The linking of two such varied, yet impressive sets of talents, is in itself unusual and remarkable, while at the same time being a reassuring earnest that a difficult task has been committed to a leadership team that is united in being devoted to a single aim--the best interests of our country. Both men were born in 1912. The President of Carleton University, we remember best as the youthful Chairman of the CBC, but prior to that, Mr. Dunton had studied at McGill and Cambridge while his confrere was attending the University of Montreal and the Sorbonne. They both began their careers in journalism, with Mr. Dunton becoming Associate Editor of the Montreal Star and later Editor of the Montreal Standard, while Mr. Laurendeau achieved national recognition as the dynamic Editor-in-Chief of Le Devoir and as an author. There is much more to their stories, but not the time to tell it, so I now proudly present to you--Andre Laurendeau and Davidson Dunton.
At the recent regional meetings of the Commission Mr. Dunton and I have summed up the subject of this inquiry by asking the following question: "These two peoples, the English-speaking and the French-speaking, can they continue to live together? Do they want to? ... and under what new conditions?"
We have tried to sum up in this way the impressions and facts that struck us during our first trips to the ten Canadian provinces, from mid-January to mid-March. The situation that became apparent reinforced the feeling that we already had of an urgency in Canada, and which we believed we had to state in very clear terms. Needless to say I am expressing Mr. Dunton's views as well as my own here.
The facts are not new. We are faced with a crisis that is focussed in Quebec, but which has numerous secondary centres. The problem of minorities exists almost everywhere in Canada. It takes various forms, for example, what are Called the "ethnic groups", the French-speaking minorities in most of the nine provinces outside Quebec, and the English-speaking minority in Quebec. Almost everywhere we went then, this problem of the minorities appeared to us to be a reality. The crisis has been emphasized all the more by the provincialism that is very strong in all parts of Canada. There is a tendency to see the questions first from the provincial point of view, and to believe them solved when a certain equilibrium has been achieved within a province. If that attitude prevailed, Canada could fall apart without anyone feeling directly responsible.
The situation is complicated by two factors: a) first of all, the extreme difficulties of communication from one province to another and especially from one culture to another. It is practically a law of contemporary journalism that bad news travels faster and farther than other kinds. The result is that the information often tends to be superficial, tendentious and incomplete, in the majority of cases, though doubt is not cast on the reporter's good faith. b) Furthermore, as this is an area where emotions are always present and strong, the reader or the listener must consent to make a conscious effort if he wishes to understand, let alone even to listen to what is being said to him. Thus, the real divergencies that exist to begin with are aggravated and made worse by this deep-seated inattention. A dialogue is difficult under these conditions. But it remains necessary if we want the country--though not necessarily the present system--to continue to exist.
It is still more evident to us that the central crisis between English and French Canada is acute (French Canada almost always being represented or symbolized by Quebec). The problem can be expressed in terms of maximum and minimum: will the maximum of what English Canada is ready to accept meet the minimum of what French Canada today feels to be a necessity for existence? Here, the question is always asked, "What does French Canada think and want, and who is able to speak on its behalf?" The reply can be another question, "What does English Canada think and want, and who is able to speak on its behalf?"
It is not possible yet to answer these two questions. We are not dealing with two political parties, but with two societies that are both complex and divided. It is certain, for example, that Quebec expresses contradictory views, and that Quebec is not all of French Canada. It is even more evident that English Canada which is geographically scattered, has divergent traditions and interests, to the point where some people question the very validity of the expression, "English Canada". As for the easy and consoling assertion that "We are all Canadians", it resolves nothing and carries with it, we believe, many illusions. For if it is unquestionable that we are all Canadians, it is no less evident that we are such through a language and a culture, which takes us back, inescapably, to the fact of Canadian duality.
The preceding question (What do English Canada and French Canada want?) is itself ambiguous. It must be made more precise by asking "What do they think about what areas?--the constitution? the rights of the two official languages? the role played by the two national groups in all spheres, and notably the economic?" These are the principal lines of our inquiry, which are even more complicated by other concerns such as the following--what is the situation for Canadians of non-British, non-French origin? What is the situation of the Acadians in the Maritimes? of the Franco-Ontarians and of the English-speaking in Quebec?
Stop and think about it: Is this not a question of the very conditions of the country's existence?
We have not been charged to restore this worsening situation. A crisis of such depth and of such dimensions cannot be resolved by a Royal Commission. The solution or the failure will be found at the political level. What we have been asked to do is to clarify the elements of the crisis and to make recommendations about what might be a new modus vivendi. We have two instruments at our disposal to help us to arrive at such recommendations: the opinions of Canadians themselves as expressed at the regional meetings and as crystallized in formal briefs; the studies of our researchers who will attempt to get beyond the prejudices, appearances and approximations that we hear so often they satisfy us. It is therefore of prime importance that specialists collaborate with us, and that Canadians express themselves in great numbers and with great clarity.
It could be that at the end of this meeting certain of you will feel like saying: "If those damn French would speak English like everybody else the problem would be solved." If we were speaking to a French Club in Montreal, some of the audience would no doubt say "Those damn English have made trouble for us for two centuries. Let's organize our own way of doing things by ourselves." But Frenchspeaking and English-speaking people do live in Canada, and will do so as long as the country exists. And I must add something that is much more essential--that in my opinion, there will be a Canada as long as there are English-speaking and French-speaking people.
Some others will conclude perhaps, along with Time Magazine, that this inquiry comes too late for French Canada and too early for English Canada. This illustrates the major difficulty for the inquiry: that from one end of Canada to the other we are not living at the same hour. People in Toronto will think, "That Commission is made up of francophones and francophiles" (francophone meaning French-speaking), whereas in Montreal others will say "That Commission is an English and federal trick to lull us and then take us over." So run the conversations, which is normal since we live in a free country.
But there is a real question and it is: Will this country still exist tomorrow, and how?
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism--quite a mouthful, in either English or French! Our official name sounds rather strange; but we are different in many ways, other than in name, from other Royal Commissions of the past and present.
For example, like no other Royal Commission I have ever heard of, we have two Chairmen. This may appear, and indeed could be, an unwieldy arrangement. In practice we find that in view of the subjects we have to deal with, it has many advantages. Mr. Laurendeau and I come from quite different backgrounds, but we find we are able to agree on many things. We are able to work in accord in trying to define the problems before the Commission and to decide on ways of looking for the answers. Here, today, as within the Commission, there is really one voice of "la presidence"--a useful word for the joint chairmanship. The words of each of us are said on behalf of both.
The Commission is different too--in the large number of its members--ten in all; and in the fact that it has two joint secretaries. We are also different from almost any public body that I know of in Canada, in that all these can understand and make themselves understood in both English and French. The result is a group that can work easily and economically in Canada's two official Federal languages. Each of us, of course, finds that specially on difficult matters he can express himself most effectively in the one language that is most natural to him. In practice, Commission discussions switch constantly from English to French, with everything said being understood by all, and no one finding himself handicapped. There is no need to have translations made of the voluminous internal papers of the Commission which are prepared in the normal language of the writer; only those going to the public have to be done in two versions.
Our Commission is different, too, in the breadth and depth of its terms of reference. The key passage in the statement of its task is "to inquire into and report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada and to recommend what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races, taking into account the contribution made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution."
I should like to comment briefly on our understanding of this mandate--first by pointing out some things we think it does not mean. Moving around the country, Mr. Lauren deau and I, again and again, met questions and comments of this sort: "How is your movement for bilingualism going?"; "You can't make people around here talk French. They have no use for it"; or, in Quebec "Why try to force more English on an area that is almost 100 per cent Frenchspeaking?".
The Commission is not trying to promote anything. So far it is not for or against anything. It is a body set up to inquire, study and make recommendations. At the beginning we took a joint decision to do everything in our power to look at matters before us with the utmost possible objectivity.
As we understand it, the word "bilingualism" in the terms of reference refers more to the country than to individuals. We do not believe it is our job to think up ways of inducing all English-speaking Canadians to become fluent in French; or to force all French-speaking Canadians to speak English as well. We are working on the assumption that large areas of the country will remain for all practical purposes unilingual in English--and other parts correspondingly unilingual in French. In still other areas, we believe, both languages will continue to be used side by side. But while we are not thinking of ways of forcing a second language on individuals, it does seem clear that a number of people of each society must be conversant with the other language so that there can be easy communication and joint participation in activities of many kinds.
Then there is that awkward word "biculturalism". I might say in parenthesis that "bilingualism and biculturalism" are words normally used very little inside the Commis sion. We think it is more important to try to look at facts and come up with concrete suggestions than play with rather vague abstractions. Anyway we do not think of the term "biculturalism" as carrying the idea of many individual Canadians developing hybrid cultures within themselves. We think the term rather implies the co-existence of two main cultures related to the two main languages; with the word "culture" taken in the broad sense, and so including ways of thinking, feeling, living, acting, remembering and organizing. For "culture" one could almost read "people".
The phrase "equal partnership" in our minds cannot mean equality in magnitude of representation and participation in many spheres. It does seem to us to raise the question of equality of opportunity for the individual to live his life and to develop as a member of one of the two principal culture groups.
Then there is the special matter of Canadians of origins other than British or French. They get special attention as far as we are concerned: first, to the extent that they participate in the use of one of the two main languages and in one of the major culture groups; secondly, to the extent that they wish, in addition, to preserve their own heritage of language and special cultural attributes.
Being different from other Royal Commissions and having different kinds of problems, we are going about our work partly in some new ways.
Last fall, we had a preliminary hearing in Ottawa, when Over seventy-five organizations and individuals came to give us their views about the interpretation of our terms of reference and how we should go about carrying them out. Our plans have developed partly in the light of views put forward then.
This winter, Mr. Laurendeau and I visited the Premiers of all ten provinces. We thought this necessary because one of the matters we are asked to consider concerns languages and education; and education of course is under provincial jurisdiction. Every provincial government promised us wide co-operation in getting facts about teaching in different languages and teaching of languages. We took the occasion of these trips to talk informally with a number of people in different parts of the country.
As with other Royal Commissions, we expect much help through briefs from organizations and individuals. Many asked for more time for these than had been originally envisaged. Now we are requesting that all briefs be in by July 1. We shall be able to read them during the summer, so that we shall be ready for the formal hearings of briefs all across the country next fall and winter.
This spring, we are trying something that is quite new for Federal Royal Commissions, as far as I know. This is a series of informal regional meetings from Coast to Coast. TO these we are endeavouring to attract a considerable number of people from many different occupations and backgrounds. They are asked to discuss the problems as they see them--and we listen. In this way, we find we are hearing frank spontaneous views from ordinary Canadians in different situations--and also watching these views develop somewhat as people discuss them among themselves. So far the meetings have been highly successful from the point of view Of the Commission. In Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivieres, London and Sudbury, we have gained vivid, contrasting impressions Of the thoughts and feelings of people living under different Canadian conditions.
I think that by the end of June, when we have completed such meetings in areas all the way from Victoria to St. John's, Newfoundland, we shall have very heightened perceptions about the attitudes of different Canadians and realities of the problems facing the country.
A part of our work that we regard as extremely important is research. Some people have wondered whether there is any real research to do in the work before us. (I might say there are usually people who have themselves ready solutions--but solutions that would be rejected out of hand by millions of Other Canadians). On many matters we find plenty of people ready to make vague, general statements, but a great dearth of established fact.
What is the real number of people in the Federal Civil Service who speak English and French as first and second languages respectively? How does, or should, an adminis tration operate best when it includes people of different language and cultural backgrounds? To what extent in actual fact are French and English respectively languages of instruction in various parts of Canada? How much and how well are English and French taught as second languages; how much is learned and remembered? How much communication is there between English and Frenchspeaking Canada, and within each group about the other? What really goes on in commercial and industrial life when people speak different languages; and in large, widespread organizations of many kinds? How do the English and French-speaking people get on in fact when they live side by side? Is there anything wrong and, if so, what? Is there fair participation by different groups in national activities, public and otherwise, and if not so, why not? What are the histories and present positions of various languages and cultural groups in different parts of the country? What are the attitudes of Canadians of different backgrounds to each other? How do other bilingual and multilingual countries meet their problems and what can we learn from them? These are just a few of the many, many questions about which we need information badly to do our job.
I just used the phrase "our job". The Commission, I believe, has an important and enormously difficult task. But the real problems are not just questions for the Commis sion; they are problems first for you, for all Canadians. The Commission hopes that it will be able to come forward with some useful recommendations. But the great questions before Canada can be solved only by Canadians. Those who can help, I believe, are especially those who can look without prejudice, drop constricting ideas they may have grown up with, and face the facts squarely; those who will make an effort to appreciate the feelings and aspirations of Canadians other than those close to them.
An enormous national effort of objective examination and understanding is needed. We hope all of you will be ready to contribute, each in your own way.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by Dr. Harold Cranfield, a Director of the Club.